Toolpack Consulting: research-based change including surveys

Organizational development in education

As people demand that colleges, universities, and school districts do more with less, education is a prime target for systemic change. We can bring the most cost-effective tools to bear, including powerful but fast role and work-flow mapping.

Why role mapping? Because tradition, shared governance, and natural crossover can bring some rather blurry power relationships, particularly in higher education. Clarifying the roles of each group and increasing communication between them can dramatically improve performance, cutting costs, improving education, or raising enrollment.

Why work-flow mapping? Because major changes in technology and student populations may not have been fully addressed when current methods and processes were originally developed, and because work-flow mapping is usually a powerful and fast tool for reducing errors, increasing speed, and cutting costs.

The many factors involved in academic performance, student retention, and other outcomes often make it hard to see a clear cause and effect, so it’s often hard to know what is truly effective. We can help to analyze existing or new data to find the most important levers for action.

Tools for tuning schools and colleges

Our staff does not just have experience in working with educators; our consultants include a past university president who cut costs while increasing student retention and enrollment.

Process consulting

A process consultant carefully intervenes in a group or team to help it to accomplish its goals. Using a process consultant (internal or external) can help to reduce conflict, increase meeting effectiveness and speed, and increase the satisfaction of everyone involved.

The consultant does not try to help the team as an expert; instead, the consultant helps the team to help itself. The process consultant must:

Process consulting also requires a client who is willing to listen and change some habits if needed. Process consulting is as difficult for the client as it is for the consultant, but the rewards usually far outweigh the efforts and risks.

Our first process consulting assignment within a university reduced meeting times to 1/3 of their prior length, while increasing effectiveness and greating increasing satisfaction with the committee. Process consulting is often “low-hanging fruit” and can energize people and prepare them for further changes.

Work-flow mapping

workflow mapping

There are many processes in any organization, and education is no exception. From the registration of students in higher education to the creation of report cards in secondary schools, there are complex processes which may result in errors, wasted time or effort, or dissatisfied students. Work-flow mapping provides a way to cut the waste, improve the quality, and/or lower costs, while increasing student and staff satisfaction. We have more details on this work-flow / process mapping page.

Strategic performance indicators

Strategic performance indicators are valuable for comparisons to peers, analyzing trends, and planning.

All involved parties, including students and the faculty, should participate in the selection of indicators. Once the indicators have been chosen, the figures must be made reliable if they are not already; norms must be established; and the indicators, their norms, and their implications must be clear. Ideally, strategic and performance indicators become part of the college’s planning process.

Strategic indicators may be set up for each area, so that the Board and officers have one set, Student Services another, etc. A student “fact-sheet” is often helpful to the faculty and staff, including those at the lowest levels.

One of the most effective ways to use strategic indicators is as part of a balanced scorecard. There are many more details on strategic indicators on that page.

Change management

Helping institutions to implement changes – often changes which most people would agree are long overdue – in the most effective way, minimizing destructive conflict and resistance. This includes maximizing participation and involvement to enhance decisions and increase motivation for change.

Role and responsibility charting

Role and responsibility charting (essentially, mapping out each person’s roles and responsibilities) is critical in education, where there are many constituencies, all of whom may claim responsibility for a task or decision. This can be accomplished by setting up a team of leaders from all groups, charting current perceptions of roles (or responsibilities – preferably both, but not at the same time!), and then setting up specific and unique people or groups to handle each role. This method also serves as a communication and conflict resolution tool, making it especially beneficial.

An objective, external facilitator can advise on the best way to implement these procedures without the appearance of bias or favoritism, thus encouraging participation while minimizing non-constructive conflict

Using role and responsibility charting may help to reconcile differences between constituencies; make decisions easier to make and implement; create an atmosphere of shared understanding and cooperation; and prevent duplication of effort. Even if no consensus is reached, there will be a greater understanding and the people involved will know where the conflicts are.

Surveys and other forms of research

Surveys can provide invaluable data for decision-making, consensus-building, progress-checking, and focused change, and the data can be linked to key outcomes so a cause-and-effect relationship can be shown. There is a great deal of information on surveys at Toolpack’s web page. Often, universities have extensive free or nearly-free survey capabilities; those in other sectors of education can often make use of the universities’ outreach or internship programs.

Interviews and unobtrusive measures can also gather information can focus efforts, evaluate changes, processes, and methods, and ensure that decision-makers and planners are using accurate and valid information.

Unobtrusive measures covers a wide gamut, and can include academic records, years to graduate, transfer-out and dropout rates, absenteeism and  lateness records, turnover, grievance statistics, studies of policies — anything that is either already collected or can be collected without people noticing (hence the term “unobtrusive”). Aside from not interrupting people as they work, unobtrusive members get around the Hawthorne Effect, where people act differently when they know someone is watching the outcomes. Interviews are tricky — they are valuable for gathering qualitative information, but interviewers tend to bias the results with the slightest of nonverbal cues. Today, open-ended survey questions can often stand in for interviews, especially given their lower cost.

Contact us today for our special expertise in higher education.

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Organizational development in education (colleges, universities, and other schools)